In a recent opinion letter written to the News Transcript and Tri-Town News on June 19th , Howell resident, Ms. Victoria Blaess, recently criticized the vote of Ms. Amy Fankhauser, newly elected Howell representative to the Freehold Regional High School District. This vote-- had it passed--would have granted a pay raise to the district's highest paid director--Ms. Donna Evangelista. Ms. Blaess argues that this is not the right time to be granting raises in the face of high property taxes. A “NO” vote would have been a very symbolic gesture for property tax relief.
Ms. Evangelista is one of five administrative district directors serving the Freehold Regional High School District. She formally was one of several Assistant Superintendents, until an organizational re-structure changed her position to director. She is the highest paid director at a yearly salary at $154,208.00. The other four directors earn $129, 414.00.
In 2008, Ms. Evangelista was embroiled in controversey, when it was revealed that she, along with former superintendent, H. James Wasser; assistant superintendent Frank Tanzini, and two teachers, obtained doctorate degrees from unaccredited online Breyer State University located in Alabama. The conferring of doctorate degrees from BSU enabled the FRHSD employees an undeserved title of “Dr.” along with upward salary increases.
During a full-scale investigation conducted by the state Department of Education, the state determined that all involved would be stripped of their doctorate degrees-- and all future raises associated with the degree were suspended. It took Ms. Evangelista several years to repay the funds without any explanation or apologies to the taxpayers for her deception.
Ms. Fankhauser’s vote to increase the salary of Ms. Evangelista is inexcusable. It does not look out for the taxpayers, nor does it look out for the children of this district. Ms. Fankhauser was in the minority on this vote—the majority of the board members were wise enough to strike this vote down.
Ms. Fankhauser’s campaign was based on being “an informed voice for Howell.” However, it appears Ms. Fankhauser was very misinformed of past actions of misconduct undertaken by a handful of ethically challenged employees of the District. Employees who shamefully gamed the system for pure personal financial gain. This academic fraud undeservedly gave the district a black eye—and should never be repeated again.
We congratulate Ms. Fankhauser for accepting this thankless and non-compensated position—but she should be reminded, the Board representative is the voice and advocate for the district taxpayers and children---our children; not their children!